Locals are well aware of Killer Shrimp’s fiery reputation. Some may unknowingly think of it as the spicy seafood place that sometimes gets crazy enough at night that it feels like a club in the bar. With its flagship location in Marina Del Rey, as well as in Santa Barbara and soon the South Bay, a recent visit to the original marina location impressed and delighted.
I can’t begin to describe how big a fan I was by the specialty drinks; fearing generic bar cocktails I must confess. But thanks to top bar consultant Marcos Tello (think 1886 Bar among other feathers in his cocktail cap), these drinks are fresh and flavorful. Tello’s Pieces of Eight is a surefire winner and pairs very well with food. Made with Cruzan Aged Rum, house made passion fruit syrup, fresh pineapple and fresh lime; it’s a revamped take on the classic Tiki drink, which originated in Marina Del Rey back in the ‘60s.
“I always try to bring to light a drink that was created in Los Angeles,” Tello explains. “The Pieces of Eight was the house drink of a Tiki restaurant of the same name that was built in the Marina before it was dredged back in 1962-1970. Back then they had a dwarf, hopefully that's the correct PC term, dressed in pirate garb with a parrot on his shoulder, holding a lantern, guiding people in. We retooled the recipe a bit to reflect our fresh juice model but we wanted to bring a little ‘liquid history’ to our patrons.”
Starting off with a cocktail and taking in the impressive marina view and you’ve got the setting for a fun night out. Other great starter libations include the KS Mojito, served with Flor de Cana Rum, two types of bitters, mint, sugar and fresh lime—it’s actually based on a recipe from the Queen’s Park Hotel in the 1920s. And the Shrimp Killa featuring Flor de Cana 7-Year Rum combined with coconut cream, pineapple juice, and freshly grated nutmeg is very savory and not too sweet.
Once you have a drink in hand, it’s time for an appetizer or two and the Shrimp Cocktail and Ahi Tuna Poke are great starter items. Both are light and fresh and utterly delicious. Other favorites include the Coconut Shrimp, and Crab Cake with spicy habanero. These are a little more daring and guilty pleasures that do not disappoint.
Time for another round of cocktails and there are more winners to choose from, such as The Westside, served with Plymouth Gin, cucumber, mint, sugar and fresh line, it’s very nice and refreshing. And don’t forget about the classic Dark ‘n Stormy, a mix of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum charged with ginger beer and fresh lime—always a great way to start a night.
The Jalisco Bumble Bee served on the rocks with Espolon Tequila, honey syrup and fresh lime has a good bite without taking away anything from a well balanced cocktail.
Likewise, the Killer Margarita, also served with Espolon Tequila, house made Curacao and fresh lime, is a dynamite drink.
“Due to Killer Shrimp's massive volume and size, I took a unique approach to the cocktail program,” Tello says. “There are two private rooms that hold another 75 and 300 people respectively so we can get up to 500-600 people in there in one sitting - all drinking cocktails! Therefore, we do only three to four ingredient cocktails and we do them consistently. We have a dedicated juicer who starts at 9am so all juices are fresh. We make all our syrups in house, except for a few from St. Vincent's. That being said, our crowd loves tequila and due to our proximity to the water we also like to use rum. As a matter of fact, seven out of our ten drinks are rum or tequila based. All the drinks taste and look different and all are made using either Kold-Draft or Pellet ice. We try to keep our standards as high as possible while still keeping a ‘volume crafted cocktail’ mentality.”
If you’re looking for heartier fare, the Lobster Bisque is a must (it’s so damn flavorful) and the Grilled Caesar Salad, served with croutons, and chicken or shrimp for an extra price, is smoky and unique. I’m a Caesar purist and bit of a snob so I was a little taken aback but it’s delightful and I’ll give Chef points for originality.
Staples at Killer Shrimp include the Killer Seafood Salad (think Shrimp Louie) topped with shrimp, crab, calamari, avocado, cucumber, hardboiled egg and tomato. This is the salad to get here.
The Lobster Mac n Cheese is a must have side item. It’s just so frickin’ hearty and incredible. No regrets with this order (the treadmill will await in the morning but your taste buds will thank you tonight).
As for the main dish, the Killer Shrimp is a no-brainer must-have! Come on, you can’t skip the signature dish that started it all. Prepared using ingredients that are simmered for 10 hours to create their legendary spicy sauce (I’ve known people that have broken into a sweat or shed a tear consuming this sauce), once you order, the shrimp are actually added to the sauce and cooked quickly. It’s served piping hot with French bread for dunking. Choose “The Original” as just described, or shelled; over rice; served over Angel Hair Pasta; as a sandwich with Original Sauce served with sweet potato fries; or as Killer Shrimp Mac n Cheese. The Black Tea Collins, made with Ketel One Vodka infused with black tea, lemon, sugar and soda water, is the perfect pairing with the Killer Shrimp dish. The two just work perfectly together.
If you want to try something else (not really sure why) the Pan-Roasted Bone-in Pork Chop with peppercorn sauce and blue cheese mashed potatoes is no joke. We’re talking a meat-eaters new best friend.
If by a miracle you have room for dessert, the Warm Apple Crumble with vanilla ice cream, and the Sweet Potato Pecan Pie are highly recommended. As full as I was by dessert time, I would never turn away the Sweet Potato Pecan Pie.
With great drinks and delicious dining options, Killer Shrimp doesn’t just hit the spot it blasts through the bulls-eye like a rocket on a mission. I’m still thinking about that succulent shrimp and that spicy sauce and soaking up all the blazing spices with French bread in hand. That, with my Black Tea Collins…it doesn’t really get any better.
Killer Shrimp is located at 4211 Admiralty Way in Marina Del Rey. Open daily from 11:30am to midnight. Call (310) 578-2293.
By: Jose Martinez.
Photography courtesy of: Killer Shrimp